Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first woman of color in space, leader of the 100-Year Starship organization, and founder and president of the Jemison Group and BioSentient Corp., received an honorary doctorate of science in spring 2022 from Clarkson University Beginning Saturday, May 14.
The degree was awarded for “her unwavering dedication to sustainable development and technology for the developing world, for her leadership and foresight in the pursuit of human interstellar space travel, and for her achievement as the first woman of color to travel in space”.
Jemison spoke about nature and the changing world the graduates are heading into.
“Graduation is a time of transition, it’s about moving from one definable phase of your life to the next and taking your place in a larger world. But right now, the world in which you enter undergoes not only subtle changes, but also upheavals and instabilities, which can have unchanging and lasting changes and consequences for decades to come,” Jemison said.
She went on to say, “There is an incredible amount of hope. When I talk to people and they say, “I want the world to be a better place,” that’s the hope we have to work with. We are part of nature, we are not outside of it.
Jemison talked about her time in space, when she looked out the window and saw how beautiful planet Earth was and something hit her. “When people say ‘Save the Earth’, they are wrong. Earth will always be there. This planet that warms us and cools us and offers us all kinds of sights, smells and sounds will be here. But we might not be there if we continue to treat it in such a way that it develops an atmosphere and an environment that is not habitable for our life form.
In conclusion, Jemison told the graduates that when the going gets tough, they should go out and look up. “Just go out once in a while and look at the clouds and the stars and allow yourself to wonder what they were like you did when you were a kid. Look at the stars and ask yourself how we are connected to the universe.
Jemison served six years as a NASA astronaut and in 1992 she was the first woman of color to travel to space. Aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, mission STS-47 Spacelab J, she was NASA’s first science mission specialist to perform experiments in materials science, life sciences, and human adaptation to weightlessness.
She currently leads 100 Year Starship, a nonprofit initiative to ensure the capabilities exist for human travel beyond our solar system to another star over the next 100 years, and led the team that won the competitive and one-time seed funding grant for 100YSS from the Advanced Defense Projects Agency.
Jemison is the founder of the Jemison Group Inc., a technology consulting firm integrating critical socio-cultural issues into the design of engineering and scientific projects, such as satellite technology for healthcare delivery and solar electricity Stirling engines in developing countries. The Jemison Group explores and develops standalone science and technology companies such as BioSentient Corporation, a medical device and services company founded by Jemison and focused on improving human health and performance.
She is the founder of The Earth We Share international science camp, for students ages 12-16 around the world, a program of the non-profit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence.
Jemison is a Fellow of the US National Academy of Medicine and serves on the boards of Kimberly-Clark, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, and the Texas Medical Center.
She is inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the National Medical Association Hall of Fame, the Texas Science Hall of Fame, the International Space Hall of Fame as well as the National Organization for Women’s Intrepid Award, the Kilby Science Award and the National Association of Corporate Directors’ Leadership 100 Most Influential People on the Board.
Jemison is the National Science Literacy Ambassador for Bayer Corporation USA, a host of National Geographic’s “One Strange Rock” television series, and a space operations advisor for its global miniseries “Mars.”
She is the author of the children’s book Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments from My Life, the first astronaut to appear in the Star Trek television series, and a minifigure in the LEGO Ideas Women of NASA set.
Prior to joining NASA, Jemison was a Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia, and a general practitioner in Los Angeles. She was also a professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.
Jemison received her MD from Cornell University and her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University, where she also completed the requirements for a Bachelor of Arts in African and African-American Studies.